April 14, 2021

What's Your Story?

Acts 21–24

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Paul Goes to Jerusalem

And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.1 And having found a ship crossing to...

Paul Goes to Jerusalem

And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.1 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers2 and stayed with them for one day. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. 10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews3 at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

15 After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. 16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.

Paul Visits James

17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled,4 and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.

Paul Arrested in the Temple

27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32 He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, 36 for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!”

Paul Speaks to the People

37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” 40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language,5 saying:

“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,6 they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel7 according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand8 the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’

Paul and the Roman Tribune

22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. 25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips,9 Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

Paul Before the Council

30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

A Plot to Kill Paul

12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

16 Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”

Paul Sent to Felix the Governor

23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night.10 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:

26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”

31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.

Paul Before Felix at Caesarea

And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:

“Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. But, to detain11 you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him.12 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.”

The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.

10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:

“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia—19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’”

Paul Kept in Custody

22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.


[1] 21:1 Some manuscripts add and Myra
[2] 21:7 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 17
[3] 21:11 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time
[4] 21:25 Some manuscripts omit and from what has been strangled
[5] 21:40 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic)
[6] 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic)
[7] 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated
[8] 22:9 Or hear with understanding
[9] 22:25 Or when they had tied him up with leather strips
[10] 23:23 That is, 9 p.m.
[11] 24:4 Or weary
[12] 24:6 Some manuscripts add and we would have judged him according to our law. 7But the chief captain Lysias came and with great violence took him out of our hands, 8commanding his accusers to come before you.

What's Your Story?

Key Verse | Acts 22:14-15

"And he said, 'The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.'"

Bio | Jody Curran

Jody Curran here—wife to Neil for 56-plus years, mother, grandmother, and still hoping to grow more in Christ! I got a late start at 33, a true daughter of the '60s, wild and woolly, but I've made a little progress. After reading through Acts, I am humbled to see how my life compares to Paul's journey. It is challenging and inspiring and intimidating! Good to know that God loves me just the same.

Central Truth

Paul consistently shared his life and story of grace to a lost and dying world.

Devotional | Acts 21–24

There is a lot going on in this chunk of Scripture, and it is hard to imagine how Paul kept going. He is finishing his third missionary journey, and in the fourth, he will end up in Rome via more trials and...

There is a lot going on in this chunk of Scripture, and it is hard to imagine how Paul kept going. He is finishing his third missionary journey, and in the fourth, he will end up in Rome via more trials and troubles. More than one prophet tells him he is headed for prison. As Paul travels, his fellow Jews accuse him, lie about him, vow to kill him, and then turn him over to Roman authorities. Riots followed him everywhere. After one riot, he is allowed to address the crowd, and he shares his amazing story: as a Jewish leader, he was capturing, imprisoning, and killing Christians, zealously determined to stop the Christians. On the road to Damascus, he was blinded by a light, and Jesus spoke to him, asking why Paul was persecuting Him. Paul was sent to Ananias, who shared Jesus' identity with Paul. That encounter on the road to Damascus changed his life and direction forever.

As Paul traveled, Jesus provided visions, spoke to him, protected him, and told him of his future, which included sending him to share God's love with the Gentiles (non-Jewish people) and to preach the good news in Rome! Paul told his story and shared the gospel of Jesus, and Paul's transformation changed the world.

My world changed, too, when at 33, I learned that Jesus loved me so much He had died for me and that all I needed to do was trust in Him and His sacrificial death for my sins (Ephesians 2:8-9). My mission included leaving my family, moving to Dallas so my husband could attend seminary, serving in four different churches, and sharing my story to various groups over 40 years and seeing many come to faith. A small taste of the joy Paul had, and a great blessing!

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Discussion Questions

1. Pray first and then write out your life story so that it could be told in about 25 to 30 minutes.

2. Reduce the telling of your life story to five minutes.

3. Can you share your life story in your small group? In a grocery line?

4. Do you have a key verse or verses memorized? If not, pick one to focus on this week.

8 Comments available

Belinda Breitling 26 days ago

Jody! Such a clear presentation of Paul’s story and the gospel message. How Jesus transformed Paul and contines to use his story to reach us today. We continue on allowing God to use our testimony in the lives of others. 2 Corinthians 4:7 “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (NLT) Thank you for letting your light shine and encouraging us!

Linda Green 27 days ago

Love your discussion questions/encouragement, Jody!

If anyone needs help with figuring out how to present their testimony, Equipped Disciple virtual or in person teaches how to write your brief testimony to share with others. You begin this process in Equipped Disciple 2.

Seeing how God has brought me to know my Savior strengthens my faith, and prepares me to speak about His goodness in my life. Equipped Disciple also taught me the necessity of memorizing scripture- so that I will have something valuable to share with others- and how to spend time daily with God in His word. Highly recommend.

Also saw in these verses how Paul always kept the Resurrection front and center when speaking to unbelievers. We serve a Risen Savior- He has broken the bonds of death!

Shawn Foster 27 days ago

Thank you and Neal so much for leading by example. Given that most people come to faith before age 25, it is encouraging that you two have glorified God greatly in spite of coming to faith in your 30’s! Likewise, is not Paul the toughest example ever?! There was a time in my life when I was tough for my own glory. Then, while broken hearted and crushed in spirit, I met Jesus. He forgave all of my sins, crowned me with love and compassion. Now, when I am weak he is strong. For his glory and our good. John 1:12

Michael Scaman 27 days ago

in Acts 26:17-18 Jesus will send Paul far away to the Gentiles to ‘open blind eyes’ and told Paul this as Paul stood there blind

Good preparation for missions as far as feeling the weight of knowing ‘Salvation is of the Lord’ and a work of God.

Sue Bohlin 27 days ago

How great to see you on JTJ this morning, beloved sisterfriend! So very glad God brought you and Neil to Watermark!

I’m really enjoying creating my “red letter Bible” and underlining all the direct words of God. In today’s passage, my “treasure hunt” allowed me to find and highlight the words of both Jesus AND the Holy Spirit. I love finding where Luke points to the actions and words of the Holy Spirit in this book. It made me smile to note that Paul’s nephew “just happened” to overhear the nefarious plot to kill his uncle, and both the officer Paul spoke to about this plan, and the commander of the troops, were given grace to believe the boy and protect Paul. That’s the Holy Spirit acting behind the scenes, just like in Esther where His fingerprints are all over a story that never once mentions God by name.

Hugh Stephenson 27 days ago

2 of 2

Paul knows he need not fear the Jews, or the Romans, as the Lord will see him safely to Rome.

Even so, this passage shows that God allows Satan to be very, very active in the world. Even his names describe his attempt to interact with me; accuser, adversary, deceiver, father of lies, murderer, tempter, thief – and many more.

I see him in Acts partnering with the Jews to falsely accuse Paul and to kill him, sending demons to possess innocent people, causing riots, and fathering one lie after another. Current times are no different.

I am ever more aware of his active engagement in my life. Constant temptation, distraction and frustration convey how he wants to take me out.

Praying thanksgiving for His Word, His Spirit and His people to walk with me.

Hugh Stephenson 27 days ago

1 of 2

GM Jody!! How lucky we are to have you and Neil!!

Growing up as a dead church-box checker I had no real understanding of the nature of God or the nature of Satan. I did not sense either one cared much about me.

What this passage conveys is that I was totally wrong about both of them. God is completely sovereign, He is deeply involved in the details, and He has a plan for my life.

As an Apostle, Paul knows God’s nature and character so well that his heart is completely and totally pure. His trust, surrender and obedience are as natural as breathing.

“…I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.”, (24:16).

So, when God says,

“Take courage for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”, (23:11),

Greg Jones 27 days ago

We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way.(Acts21:4-5)

Do not quench the Spirit.(Thessalonians5:19)

A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”(Acts21:10-11)

Do not treat prophecies with contempt.(1Thessalonians5:20)

I like Acts. The writer has used Paul’s letters as Paul’s mirror. I don’t just like it, I need it.

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